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In what animal rights activists see as a significant development, a pair of U.K. health regulators recently wrote that drug researchers should seek alternatives to a controversial test in rodents that is used for developing antidepressants.

At issue is the forced swim test in which mice, rats, guinea pigs, and gerbils are placed in beakers filled with water and forced to swim in order to keep from drowning. The test has been used to gauge the effectiveness of antidepressants based on the theory that an animal will swim longer and spend less time floating after being given one of these pills.

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